REVIEWED: SEASON 1 (EPISODES 1 - 5) | WHERE TO WATCH: STARZPLAY (VIA PRIME VIDEO) 10TH MARCH
Gregg Araki, the regarded visionary of ‘new queer cinema’, is a filmmaker whose back-catalogue has been both fascinating and frustrating in equal measure. On the one hand, he delves into anarchic creativity and invention that makes his films enticing to watch, yet at the same time, they can become too self-indulgent in their own craziness, shocking audiences just for the pure sake of it. This is true about his latest, Now Apocalypse, a series that focuses on twentysomethings Ulysses (Avan Jogia), Carly (Kelli Berglund), Ford (Beau Mirchoff), and Severine (Roxane Mesquida) as they party and pursue fame in Los Angeles, while the former also finds himself becoming increasingly paranoid that the world around him might be hiding a dark secret.
In a lot of ways, Now Apocalypse feels like the spiritual successor to his Araki’s Kaboom, as it borrows a lot of similar concepts and elements from that 2010 release. Both feature a character whose sexuality is unclear and has almost prophetic dreams of foreboding disaster, the supporting characters are a bunch of misfits with euphoric goals and desires, and Mesquida stars in both as an unusually strange and quirky character. However, while sitting through the first five episodes of this strange, hallucinatory experience, we found ourselves quickly wanting to revisit Kaboom instead. Much as it was explicit, it was more joyous to watch, was much funnier, and was much more even-handed in the way it approached its characters, despite their tendencies or indulgences. Unfortunately, Now Apocalypse doesn't have those same qualities, dragging out its ideas at a snail's pace, resulting in low-stakes and resorting to half-arsed hookups and failed dreams. This is simply not enough to carry an entire TV show, and having a solid cast doesn't help elevate it all beyond just typical, goofy stoner humour and prolonged sexual encounters, which goes to show that both Araki and fellow screenwriter Karley Sciortino haven't got a grip on how to tell a tight, coherent story appropriately suited to the medium.
That's not to say that there aren't some delights to be found here. Visually, it's typically stunning to watch, with Araki bringing his usual dynamic flair to the proceedings; its bright, neon-drenched colour palette assaulting your eyeballs with every scene. Plus, the cast do give it their all (as well as bare all!), especially Berglund, who gleefully jettisons her Disney image after appearing in the hit children's show Lab Rats for five years and is here allowed to be badass and raunchy in equal measure as the aspiring actress/best friend.
Despite its likeable cast and superb visuals, Now Apocalypse looks to be a show for hardcore Araki fans only. Perhaps its latter half will win us back if they’ve got more planned with the invading lizard-people angle...